The State Department’s internal watchdog announced that it would be conducting an inquiry into allegations that the contractor used for the Keystone XL environmental analysis had financial ties to Keystone pipeline operator, TransCanada. The inquiry comes after outcry from citizens and environmental groups over the flawed process of environmental approval for the pipeline.
The contractor, Foggy Bottom, was hired by the State Department to conduct an environmental analysis on the proposed pipeline project. The draft analysis asserted that Keystone “wouldn’t significantly exacerbate carbon emissions,” despite findings that the pipeline would emit an amount of carbon equivalent to 51 coal plants or more than 37.7 million cars.
Several groups have claimed that Foggy Bottom had financial ties to TransCanada and the American Petroleum Institute, a Keystone proponent and lobbying group made up of approximately 400 oil and gas companies.
There have also been questions about Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM), a British company contracted by the State Department for the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the northern half of the Keystone XL pipeline. The company is accused of lying on its conflict-of-interest disclosure about its relationship to TransCanada.
ERM and its subsidiary, Oasis Environmental, both have “ongoing contractual relationships” with the South Central LNG Project, which is co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and BP. In the SEIS, ERM said the northern half of the pipeline would have little effect on climate change.
“ERM’s own documents… also reveal the multinational firm has business ties with over a dozen companies active in the Alberta tar sands, including Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Total and Syncrude,” DeSmogBlog reports.
Two weeks ago, environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE) filed a lawsuit against the State Department, which is in charge of the Keystone approval process, for failure to respond to their request for an expedited release of critical records regarding the involvement of “well-connected lobbyists” in the pipeline approval process.
In June, the Sierra Club announced that it was suing the State Department for the release of documents related to the Keystone environmental draft review. The group also alleged that the State Department was withholding documents related to ERM and their “financial ties to the pipeline company [TransCanada] and the American Petroleum Institute,” according to The Hill.
With so many conflicts of interest and questions about the validity and results of the draft environmental review released in March, the State Department may be forced to conduct a new analysis of the project. Opponents of the pipeline have demanded that Keystone’s greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact be accurately reported, as President Obama has stated that he would oppose the project, even if the State Department approves it, if it “’significantly exacerbates’ carbon pollution.”